Photos: María Muiña/Telefonica

Telefonica ready to go

Rapid turnaround for the Spanish Volvo Ocean Race team as they prepare for this weekend's re-start

Tuesday December 6th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: South Africa

After over 21 days at sea on the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, the boat sailed by Iker Martínez and co has spent just one week in bits. A 140 tonne crane returned the yacht to her natural habitat at midday today under the watchful eye of some curious onlookers: the sea-lions inhabiting the cool waters around Cape Town's ports.

“We've done some basic maintenance work on her as well as some modifications, as the crew always come up with some interesting observations and ideas after sailing so many miles, especially after these 6,500 miles on the first leg”, explained Horacio Carabelli, Team Telefónica's Technical Director and the person responsible for organising and coordinating the shore crew's workload.

Much of the time has been taken up with vital checks such as taking the keel apart, removing the mast and other parts of the boat to then put them all back together again. There has been a crew of 12 people from the shore crew who were in charge of most of these jobs, although as Carabelli points out: “We've also brought in some other hands for other tasks, although fundamentally the people working over the last few days have been our permanent crew, the ones we travel around the world with”.

Given the track record in this regatta so far, with two of the six entries dismasting, as expected, one of the boat parts that went under the microscope during the boat checks was the mast.

It's a meticulous task, but as Fernado Sales, who is responsible for the rigging and mast department pointed out: "Even though we know the mast is fine, we took it apart. That means we took out everything that might be susceptible to unscrewing, loosening or moving along the way: all of the spreaders came out and the fixings which fix them to the mast itself, as well as the shrouds, and all of this had to to be put back together... So generally speaking we took everything that forms part of the mast apart to give it a good clean and to put it through ultrasound testing."

To sum up: a mini refit, greasing where needed and checking that everything's in its place and in full working order, as well as improving on a few details. “We hope we put everything back exactly where it was supposed to be!”, jokes 'Harry', as he's known to the team.

It's worth also noting the 300 to 500 metres of rope of different diameters that has been replaced on the yacht due to the wear and tear during the last leg and to guarantee better safety levels in view of the forthcoming racing and leg.

Unlike previous editions of the Volvo Ocean Race, or other round the world events such as the recently departed Global Ocean Race, where the fleet spent one month in Cape Town, this time there will only have been 15 days between the time Telefónica crossed the finishing line on 26 November and next Sunday, when the starting gun will fire for the start of the second leg in the competition.

That means that the shore crews must prepare the boat in less time. However, perhaps the most tricky thing is getting ready for all of the four key moments lying ahead for the crews, all packed together into the coming week: the training race on Thursday, the Pro-Am race on Friday and the in-port race on Saturday, then the leg start on Sunday. If something unexpected happened during the coastal race, for example, the team would have less than 24 hours to react to get the boat ready and into the best possible shape for the leg.

“The time between legs has been cut down by a week, which makes it very hard to do everything that's needed on a boat like this, and even though we got here first, we are running low on time all the same”, says Horacio Carabelli. “This change in the regatta isn't favourable when it comes to getting the boats ready and it makes it even more tough for those who come in further behind”.

Time, therefore, is like gold-dust at the Team Telefónica base and every second counts: “Tomorrow we'll have our first sail on the boat. We'll be testing out the changes, and some of the new sails we'll have... from there all we can do is train as much as we can. It's three days until the training race...”, concludes the Spanish team's Technical Director.

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